Ernest Ranglin – Jazz Guitarist
As child, Ranglin had 2 uncles who played guitar and ukelele. After watching them play, he practised on their instruments, and stood in for one of them when they failed to turn up for a recording session, impressing his other uncle so much that he was given the instrument for his 7th birthday. He built his own guitar using a sardine can and wires, before progressing to a real one. He moved with his family to Kingston, where he was educated at Providence, Kingston Senior School, and Bodin College. While still in his teens, he began performing live, locally and in the Bahamas, often with the young Monty Alexander,
Charlie Christain was an early influence. Aged 15, he joined the Val Bennett band, and went on to play with the Eric Deans band and Count Boysie. By the early 1950s, Ranglin had become a proficient jazz guitarist and toured overseas. In 1958, Chris Blackwell recorded a Ranglin single, which was one of the 1st releases on Blackwell’s R&B label, and a live album split between Ranglin and Lance Haywood was the first to be released by Blackwell. Around 1959, he joined Cluett Johnson’s band the Blues Blasters, recording several tracks for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, including “Shuffling Jug”, regarded as one of the first ska recordings. In 1962, the James Bond film Dr No was filmed in Jamaica. While Byron Lee & the Dragonaires appeared in the film, the soundtrack recordings were actually made by Ranglin. In 1964, Ranglin played guitar on singer Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop the first Jamaican song to achieve international success.
Ranglin recorded two jazz albums in the mid-1960s for the Merritone record label – Wranglin (1964) and Reflections (1965), also working for Duke Reid as a musical director at the Treasure Isle recording studio during this period. He began attracting international notice in 1964 when he travelled to London to perform at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. He became the venue’s resident guitarist for 9 months, backing numerous guest artists and appearing in a recording of a Sonny Stitt/Dick Morrissey jam session in 1966. He made several solo records for Island Records, as well as collaborating with Prince Buster. He returned to session work, arranging songs such as the Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon” and playing guitar leads in the ‘Wailers’ “It Hurts to Be Alone”.
Ranglin’s fusion of jazz and reggae was continued by his nephew, Gary Crosby, who formed the group Jazz Jamaica